Visitors to the region of Veneto often
overlook the marvelous city of Padova because they opt to visit Venice
instead. It must be a shame once they find out out that they missed not
only the oldest city in Northern Italy (founded in 1183 BC by Trojan
Prince Antanor) but also the setting of most of the action in
Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew
. Padova (also known as Padua) is the capital of the province of the same name and stands on the
Bacchiglione River, 40 kilometers west
of Venice and 29 kilometers southeast of Vicenza. The city is
picturesque, with a dense network of arcaded streets opening into large
, and many bridges crossing the various branches of the Bacchilgione, which once surrounded its ancient walls.
When visiting Padova, the suggested
start point by locals is its famous university. Founded in 1222 under
the rule of Venice, the University of Padua is the third oldest in
Italy and it hosts the oldest anatomy theatre (built in 1954) and the
oldest botanical garden in the world (built in 1545). If you're
impressed with those stats, wait until you see the list of some of its
alumni: Sperone Speroni, Copernicus, Galileo Galilei and Gabriele
Fallopio (first described the fallopian tube).
Right after the university, locals frequently cite the Scrovegni Chapel (Capella degli Scrovegni
in Italian) as Padova's most famous sight because it stands on the site
of a Roman arena and it holds the most acclaimed fresco cycle in the
world. Commissioned by Enrico degli Scrovegni and first completed in
1305, this chapel has a strict policy prior to entrance to improve
preservation of its antique collection. The visitors to the Scrovegni
Chapel must spend about 15 minutes in a climate controlled, airlocked
vault while the vault stabilizes the temperature between the outside
world and the inside of the chapel. Make sure to book ahead before your
visit to the Scrovegni Chapel.
To summarize the rest of the
city, a famous local saying describes Padua itself as the city of “a
meadow without grass, a saint without a name and a café
The first part of this saying is
best exemplified by Prato della Valle, a 90,000 squared meters
elliptical square, that is believed to be the second biggest in Europe,
after the Red Square in Moscow. This "meadow without grass" is a
paradise for active Italian men and women, as well as for performing
artists and aspiring musicians.
The second part of this saying refers to Saint Anthony of Padua, whose basilica is known as the Basilica del Santo
(Basilica of The Saint). This church not only houses the mortal remain
of the Lisbon-born saint, but also masterworks by Donatello.
The third part of the saying, a café
without doors, specifically refers to the Caffè Pedrocchi. Near to the Palazzo
del Bò, this well-known cafe has a reputation for being "doorless"
because for a long time it was open 24/7 365 days of the year.